Making Acosta a Federal Case

Question: What does CNN’s Jim Acosta crave more than anything? If you said “attention,” go to the head of the class. It’s a mystery why the White House has given Acosta way more than that. By yanking his “hard pass” after last week’s press conference (don’t ask who was obnoxious; they all were), Acosta has literally become a federal case. CNN filed suit claiming that its reporter’s First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated. More than a dozen news organizations, including Fox, have filed amicus briefs supporting CNN, and even Trump-friendly Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano has opined that Acosta has a strong case. Mr. Showboat is just where he wants to be — the center of attention — but thanks to President Trump’s gratuitous swipe, he is also a free-press martyr.

Trump is perfecting the art of the Big Lie

But few of these lies were as chilling as the one last week at a fundraiser in Missouri.

The president recounted how Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had told him that the U.S. doesn’t have a trade deficit with his country. Trump said he contradicted Trudeau — “Wrong, Justin, you do” — even though “I didn’t even know. … I had no idea.” When Trudeau insisted, “We have no trade deficit,” Trump replied: “I don’t believe it.” He then called in an aide who supposedly told him that the U.S. has no trade deficit with Canada — but only if you don’t count energy and timber. “ ‘And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year,’ ” Trump quoted the aide as saying. “It’s incredible.”

It’s incredible, all right, as in literally not credible. Trump’s own U.S. trade representative reports that the United States has a $12.5 billion trade surplus with Canada, and that includes energy and timber. But Trump didn’t back down: He insisted that his “alternative facts” were superior to actual facts.

.. On Thursday, the president tweeted: “We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive).” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was sent out to do a full Spicer by dutifully saying, without a scintilla of substantiation, that “there are plenty of things, once you take into the full account of all of the trade between the two countries, that show that there is actually a deficit.”

.. this is another example of a would-be dictator’s desire not just to sneak lies by us but to shove them down our throats. Trump is signaling that he doesn’t care what the truth is. From now on the truth will be whatever he says, and he expects every loyal follower to faithfully parrot the official party line. Or else.

.. after Trump’s graceless ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The White House initially claimed that Tillerson had been notified the previous Friday that he was being let go, but on Tuesday Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, contradicted that spin by telling reporters that Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his firing and had just found out about it. Goldstein was immediately canned and, in a significant bit of symbolism, replaced with a former host of “Fox & Friends,” Trump’s favorite TV show. Trump is sending a signal that not only does he insist on his right to lie but that he regards telling the truth as a firing offense.

.. Trump’s gloating tweet makes it obvious this was punishment for telling the truth about the Maximum Leader’s attempts to obstruct justice and end an investigation into his links to the Kremlin.

.. As his presidency advances, Trump is becoming increasingly intolerant of disagreement and defiance, especially from aides who know what they are talking about.

  • Gary Cohn tried to tell him that tariffs and trade wars are bad economics; Trump didn’t listen and Cohn resigned.
  • Tillerson tried to tell him that scrapping the Iran nuclear deal is a bad strategy, and now he’s gone. National security adviser
  • H.R. McMaster is saidto be the next candidate for the heave-ho, because he reportedly rubs Trump the wrong way.

.. The frightening thing is that Trump’s insistence on redefining reality is working, at least with his base.

.. The video news site NowThis has posted a hilarious and horrifying clip showing Fox News talking heads hyperventilating over President Barack Obama’s promise to meet with the leaders of hostile states such as North Korea (Mike Huckabee: “President Obama likes talking to dictators!”), before going on to fulsomely praise President Trump for doing just that.

.. Trump is sucking a substantial portion of America into his Orwellian universe. The rest of us have to struggle simply to remember that war isn’t peace, freedom isn’t slavery, ignorance isn’t strength.

‘21st Century Glass-Steagall’ Means Whatever You Want It To, Unless You Want It To Mean Glass-Steagall

Mnuchin’s response at times approached the cosmic incomprehensibility of a Buddhist koan:

There actually wasn’t a reversal. The Republican platform did have Glass-Steagall. We, during the campaign . . . specifically came out and said we do support a 21st Century Glass-Steagall, which is – that means that there are aspects of it that we think may make sense. But we never said before that we supported a full separation of banks and investment banking, if we—

Here Warren interjected: “There are aspects of Glass-Steagall you support, but not breaking up the banks and separating commercial banking from investment banking? What do you think Glass-Steagall was if that’s not right at the heart of it?”

The exchange is worth quoting in bulk:

MNUCHIN: Again, I’m well aware of what Glass-Steagall was. As you may know the original concern about Glass-Steagall was about conflicts, not about credit risk. And if we had supported a full Glass-Steagall we would have said at the time that we believed in Glass-Steagall and not a 21st Century Glass-Steagall. We were very clear in differentiating it. I have realized and I had not realized that your bill was named the 21st century Glass-Steagall—
WARREN: And it has been for three years now.
MNUCHIN: I apologize that I was not aware of that, so—
WARREN: I still haven’t heard the answer to my question. What do you think Glass-Steagall was if it wasn’t separating commercial banking from investment banking?
MNUCHIN: Again, the fundamental part of Glass-Steagall was, as you’ve just outlined, the separation of investment banking from commercial banking because people were concerned about conflicts—

Again there’s some back-and-forth as Warren takes on the look of someone watching a gory athletic injury in slo-mo. “This is like something straight out of George Orwell,” she says.

.. Yet she takes another crack at it. Again, worth quoting in full:

WARREN: I have to try this one more time. What does it mean to be in favor of 21st Century Glass-Steagall if it does not mean breaking apart these two functions in banking?
MNUCHIN: You know what, I’d be more than happy to come and see you and follow up—
WARREN: Just tell me what it means!
MNUCHIN: Had we – we never came out and said separate banks from investment—
WARREN: Just tell me what 21st Century Glass-Steagall means if it doesn’t mean breaking apart those two functions. It’s an easy question – or an impossible question.
MNUCHIN: It’s actually a complicated question because there’s many aspects of it, OK? The simple answer, which we don’t support, is breaking up banks from investment banks. We think that would be a huge mistake. But again, I’m more than happy to listen to your ideas on it. You obviously have strong views, and I’d be happy to follow up and listen to you.
WARREN: This is just bizarre, the idea that you could say we are in favor of Glass-Steagall but not breaking up the banks.
MNUCHIN: We never said we were in favor of Glass-Steagall, we said we were in favor of a 21st Century Glass-Steagall. It couldn’t be clearer!

There you have it! As we have long held, the Trump administration’s “New Modern Twenty-First-Century Glass-Steagall” is just a vacuous string of mouth-sounds with no bearing on anything but the ability of Gary Cohn and Mnuchin to make it through an interview without sounding like a moron.

Steven Mnuchin Says Breaking Up Commercial Banks and Investment Banks Would Be A Huge Mistake

This was the first time that a Trump administration official has said that in its view a 21st century Glass-Steagall would not require the separation of commercial banks and investment banks.

.. The hearing quickly became heated, with Warren become increasingly annoyed with Mnuchin’s answers.

“There are aspects of Glass-Steagall that you support but not breaking up the banks and separating commercial banking from investment banking? What do you think Glass-Steagall was if that’s not right at the heart of it?” Warren asked.

“I’m well aware of what Glass-Steagall was,” Mnuchin said.

“This is like something straight out of George Orwell,” Warren said.

Mnuchin argued that the purpose of Glass-Steagall was to avoid conflicts of interests that can arise when banks act as brokers and securities dealers as well as lenders and deposit takers.

.. “This is just bizarre, the idea that you could say we are in favor of Glass-Steagall but not breaking up the banks,” a clearly frustrated Warren said.

.. Dealbreaker, widely-read by Wall Street’s younger set, described Mnuchin’s answers as having “the cosmic incomprehensibility of a Buddhist koan.”